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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Has it really been nine years since “Seinfeld” went off the air? Somehow that doesn’t seem possible. Perhaps the reason is that Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t done a million other things in the interim, and so it feels like the show is more current than it really is. Other than stand-up appearances and occasional talk-show visits, Seinfeld has been busy (as a bee) these last few years creating Bee Movie, an animated film that he conceived, co-wrote, and does the main voice for.

This is the story of Barry B. Benson (you know who), a bee who is about to do what all bees do: work for the rest of his life in the hive. Nervous about choosing one job that will define him for eternity, Barry ignores the advice of his friend Adam (Matthew Broderick) and goes outside the hive. He is saved from a squishing by a florist named Vanessa (Renee Zellweger) and, against all known bee rules, he speaks to her in order to offer thanks. A strange friendship develops between the two, with Barry leaving the hive daily to hang out with his human friend.

When he accompanies Vanessa to the grocery store one day, Barry is horrified to discover that honey is jarred and sold. To him, this is outright theft. After all, the bees work hard to make the honey, so why should humans come and take it from them? Barry decides that the only solution is to sue humanity, which he does in the courtroom of Judge Bumbleton (Oprah Winfrey). However, what he doesn’t count on is that taking bee culture away from people leads to some unexpected consequences.

From an animation standpoint, Bee Movie is amazing. I like the colorful, stylized look of the bee characters. There are also plenty of humorous little details scattered throughout the hive, such as a newspaper headline about a madman (madbee?) who “stings seven, then self.” Best of all is the way CGI has been used to render the world outside the hive. There are several truly dazzling sequences in which the camera appears to fly through New York City right alongside Barry. The effect is almost dizzying.

Animated movies generally tend to be seen as “family films” or “kiddie movies.” While there’s no doubt that Bee Movie is appropriate for all ages, it’s clear that Jerry Seinfeld and his co-writers have not written down for children. In fact, I dare say that adults may like this film even more than the little ones. Seinfeld basically imagines himself as a bee and brings the same obsessive, observational humor to the film that he did to his TV show. A lot of the jokes are centered around bee minutia: the fact that they shouldn’t anatomically be able to fly, the fact that every bee has a job, the way hives are intensely organized, etc. Regardless of its PG rating, if you are a fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy style, then you will probably find a lot to like here. Bee Movie also has some hilarious jabs at celebrities, including one well-known star who has appropriated some bee culture in real life.

I laughed a lot at this film; it takes about 10 or 15 minutes to ramp up, but once it did, I was hooked. Aside from the animation and the humor, Bee Movie also tells a nice story about friendship and the value of hard work. This is an incredibly witty film, and I swear I’ll never look at bees the same way again.

( 1/2 out of four)

Bee Movie is rated PG for mild suggestive humor, and a brief depiction of smoking. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

To learn more about this film, check out Bee Movie

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